Airbags represent one of the most important advancements in vehicle safety. When a car crashes, the airbags deploy to create a cushion that absorbs the impact. Frighteningly, one change in the Takata airbag design has turned this innovative device into a deadly weapon. The reason for the change? To save money, of course.
In a shocking trend, Takata joins G.M. and Trinity in the list of auto industry corporations that put drivers at risk to save a buck.Takata has recalled approximately 7.8 million airbags installed in 10 different types of vehicles that contain exploding propellant canisters.
The Change that Makes Takata Airbags Explode
In 1998, Takata
developed technology to reliably and safely deploy auto airbags. The
compound tetrazole is used in the canisters that trigger the release of
the airbag during a crash. This stable propellant replaced sodium azide,
a toxin that caused chemical burns and respiratory distress to some
occupants after an accident. Takata was, at the time, on the forefront
of customer safety. This status did not last long.
Tetrazole is expensive to produce and, thus, affected Takata’s bottom line. So in 2001, the company replaced the safe, stable product with a
much cheaper one — ammonium nitrate. One expert describes ammonium
nitrate as “unbelievably cheap.” From the start, Takata engineers
expressed concern about using the volatile compound. An engineer who
worked at the factory told the Senate that multiple workers had asked,
“Won’t that blow up?” when told they would be using ammonium nitrate in
the airbag canisters.
Money won out, and the company continued to build airbags with the
ammonium nitrate-filled canisters. As a result, the canisters exploded
and sent sharp metal shards flying into vehicle during a car crash.
Corporate Greed Caused Serious Injuries and Deaths
Sadly, Takata’s greed resulted in dozens of serious injuries and
deaths. The decision-makers at the company knew the danger and willingly put people’s lives in jeopardy anyway. Sound familiar? In just the past year, several transportation and auto industry corporations have been
exposed for endangering the public.
First, we learned that G.M.
secretly changed an ignition switch part that caused the car’s engine
to suddenly shut down, along with its brakes, steering and airbags. The
company tried to keep the matter under wraps even when after it
discovered that the defective part was killing drivers.
This October, a jury found Trinity,
Inc. liable for altering its guardrails without notifying the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.), as required by law.
The alteration caused the guardrail to jam up and send a spear of metal
into the car during an accident. The company saved $2.00 per unit by
making this change that resulted in catastrophic and fatal injuries.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg. During my more than three
decades in practice, I have handled numerous corporate negligence cases.
Money is always the motivating factor. Tragically, no amount of money
can bring back the lives and the health of the untold victims of